Growing in Popularity, Switch Devices Are Making Guns Deadlier

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Caison Robinson, a 14-year-old boy, was hanging out with a younger neighbor on their quiet street in northwest Las Vegas when they were ambushed by a gunman. The shooter, in a white car, opened fire with a pistol equipped with a switch, a small and illegal device that can convert semi-automatic handguns into fully automatic machine guns. Caison was struck five times, and his friend was shot in the leg. These makeshift machine guns, which can unleash a hail of bullets within seconds, are contributing to the growing problem of gun violence in the United States, according to law enforcement and medical professionals.

The use of switches is on the rise, as evidenced by real-time audio tracking of gunshots across the country. Audio sensors recorded over 75,000 rounds of suspected automatic gunfire in 2022, a 49% increase from the previous year. This surge in the use of switches has been particularly alarming for cities like Kansas City, where gun violence has reached record levels. Mayor Quinton Lucas believes that switches, especially among young people, are a major factor in the decreased survival rate of gunshot victims in his city.

Switches come in various forms, but they are often small plastic blocks that can be easily manufactured using a 3-D printer. They are being used more frequently by criminals, including teenagers who view them as a status symbol and a competitive advantage. The proliferation of switches has also coincided with the availability of “ghost guns,” untraceable firearms that can be obtained online or made with 3-D printers.

Federal law enforcement officials are wrestling with the challenge of addressing the use of switches. The devices are difficult to track due to their widespread circulation and the ease with which they can be produced and installed at home using online instruction videos. Additionally, many switches are owned and used by individuals under the age of 18, who often face lenient treatment in the courts. Social media platforms like YouTube ban content that shows how to make illegal weapons, but such content is protected under the First Amendment and remains readily available online.

Efforts have been made to modify firearms to prevent switches from being attached. Federal law enforcement officials have sought assistance from Glock, a prominent gun manufacturer, but the company has determined that the design of their pistols cannot be altered in that way. Despite the challenges, the Justice Department has increased the prosecution of sellers and suppliers involved in switches. However, switches have become embedded in youth culture, featured in rap songs and memes on social media.

For Caison Robinson, the devastating impact of switches became apparent when he was almost killed by one. He was aware of switches before the incident, as his peers often bragged about their newly acquired converted guns. Switches have become a trend and a way for teenagers to gain popularity. Unfortunately, many young people are drawn into armed groups wielding these modified weapons.

The incident has left Caison and his mother, Takeila Peebles, shocked and fearful. They believed that moving from Chicago to Las Vegas would provide a safer environment, but the shooting shattered that illusion. Caison’s mother hopes that more can be done to address the problem of switches and prevent other families from experiencing the trauma they have endured.

In conclusion, the use of switches to convert handguns into fully automatic machine guns is contributing to the rising tide of gun violence in the United States. Law enforcement officials are facing significant challenges in addressing this issue, as switches are easily accessible, particularly to young people. Efforts to modify firearms to prevent the attachment of switches have proven unsuccessful so far. The popularity of switches and their presence in youth culture only exacerbate the problem. It is crucial that comprehensive measures are taken to address the use of switches and curb the destructive impact they have on communities.

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